Thousands of N.L. government workers headed back to the office early a big concern, says NAPE

·2 min read
Government workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are being called back to working in the office far ahead of schedule, according to the union that represents them. (Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Government workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are being called back to working in the office far ahead of schedule, according to the union that represents them. (Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press
Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press

Thousands of workers within the provincial government have been told a return to the office is coming much quicker than expected, leading to concerns from the union that represents them.

According to NAPE President Jerry Earle, many workers were under the impression that working from home would continue into the fall. However, he says they were alerted to an abrupt change last week.

"We were advised last week that now employees are going to be expected for the most part to return to their workplaces with core government," Earle told CBC News Monday. "That's a significant change from early on in the summer, when a [notice] was put out to say that the majority of those that were working at home would continue to work at home."

Upwards of 3,000 workers are impacted, according to Earle.

He says workers were initially told they would see a slow transition back into the workplace, but have now seen a change without a particular reason given.

"With that comes concerns from employees returning to workplaces en masse. We fully recognize there's areas where working from home is not an option, but there's a number of employees that demonstrated that it can be done," Earle said.

"They were doing great work, they were able to adapt to it. Now they got to reverse it and basically move quickly back into something that they were told was not going to happen."

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Earle said the change also creates problems for workers in the sector, such as finding child care and transportation.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson from the Department of Finance said the move to bring workers back was made as government continues to find opportunities for at-home working in the public service.

Working from home that is given as part of an accommodation will continue, as well as in cases where physical distancing cannot be maintained, according to the department.

Earle said the union hopes to meet with government to learn the full rationale behind the decision and its timing, and believes a more coordinated approach could have been taken had unions been consulted.

"We were prepared to sit at the table, work through the issues cause we told them this just couldn't happen overnight," Earle said. "And lo and behold, some eight or nine weeks later a reverse. And again, with little to no consultation."

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